The Saga Of Kashmir - Online Article

Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Historically the term Kashmir was used to refer to the valley lying between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range. Today Kashmir refers to a larger area that includes the Indian-administered regions of Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh, the Pakistani administered regions Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir, and the Chinese administered region of Aksai Chin.

Kashmir was originally an important centre of Hinduism and later of Buddhism. In 1349 Shah Mirza became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir and started the line Salatin-i-Kashmir.For the next five centuries Kashmir had Muslim rulers, which included Sultan Sikandar (also known as Butshikan, or "iconoclast") who ascended the throne in 1398, Zain-ul-abidin, who became the ruler in 1420, the Mughals, whose rule lasted until 1751, and the Afghan Durranis, who ruled Kashmir from 1752 until 1820.That year, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir, and held it until 1846 at which time, the Dogras, starting with Gulab Singh, became the rulers of Kashmir upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar. The Dogra Rule (under the paramountcy, or tutelage, of the British Crown) lasted until 1947, when the former princely state became a disputed territory, now administered by three countries, India, Pakistan, and China.

The Kashmir region has long been a Muslim majority region. In the 1901 Census of the British Indian Empire, Muslims constituted 74.16% of the total population of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, Hindus, 23.72%, and Buddhists, 1.21%. The Hindus were found mainly in Jammu, where they constituted a little less than 50% of the population.In the Kashmir Valley, Muslims constituted 93.6% of the population and Hindus 5.24%. These percentages have remained fairly stable for the last 100 years.Fourty years later, in the 1941 Census of British India, Muslims accounted for 93.6% of the population of the Kashmir Valley and the Hindus for 4% In 2003, the percentage of Muslims in the Kashmir Valley was 95%and those of Hindus 4%; the same year, in Jammu, the percentage of Hindus was 66% and those of Muslims 30%.Among well-known people of Kashmiri lineage are Muhammad Iqbal, the Urdu poet, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, and Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister of Pakistan.

Etymology

The Nilamata Purana describes the Valley's origin from the waters, a fact corroborated by prominent geologists, and shows how the very name of the land was derived from the process of desiccation - Ka means "water" and Shimir means "to desiccate". Hence, Kashmir stands for "a land desiccated from water". There is also a theory which takes Kashmir to be a contraction of Kashyap-mira or Kashyapmir or Kashyapmeru, the "sea or mountain of Kashyapa", the sage who is credited with having drained the waters of the primordial lake Satisar that Kashmir was before it was reclaimed. The Nilamata Purana gives the name Kashmira to the Valley considering it to be an embodiment of Uma and it is the Kashmir that the world knows today. The Kashmir's, however, call it Kashir, which has been derived phonetically from Kashmir, as pointed out by Aurel Stein in his introduction to the Rajatarangini.

History

By the early 19th century, the Kashmir valley had passed from the control of the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan, and four centuries of Muslim rule under the Mughals and the Afghans, to the conquering Sikh armies. Earlier, in 1780, after the death of Ranjit Deo, the Raja of Jammu, the kingdom of Jammu (to the south of the Kashmir valley) was captured by the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh of Lahore and afterwards, until 1846, became a tributary to the Sikh power. Ranjit Deo's grand-nephew, Gulab Singh, subsequently sought service at the court of Ranjit Singh; distinguished himself in later campaigns, especially the annexation of the Kashmir valley by the Sikhs army in 1819, and, for his services, was created Raja of Jammu in 1820. With the help of his able officer, Zorawar Singh, Gulab Singh soon captured Ladakh and Baltistan, regions to the east and north-east of Jammu.[5] In 1845, the First Anglo-Sikh War broke out, and Gulab Singh "contrived to hold himself aloof till the battle of Sobraon (1846), when he appeared as a useful mediator and the trusted advisor of Sir Henry Lawrence. Two treaties were concluded. By the first the State of Lahore (i.e. West Punjab) handed over to the British, as equivalent for (rupees) one crore of indemnity, the hill countries between Beas and Indus; by the second[6] the British made over to Gulab Singh for (Rupees) 75 lakhs all the hilly or mountainous country situated to the east of Indus and west of Ravi" (i.e. the Vale of Kashmir). Soon after Gulab Singh's death in 1857, his son, Ranbir Singh, added the emirates of Hunza, Gilgit and Nagar to the kingdom.

The Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu (as it was then called) was constituted between 1820 and 1858 and was "somewhat artificial in composition and it did not develop a fully coherent identity, partly as a result of its disparate origins and partly as a result of the autocratic rule which it experienced on the fringes of Empire". It combined disparate regions, religions, and ethnicities: to the east, Ladakh was ethnically and culturally Tibetan and its inhabitants practiced Buddhism; to the south, Jammu had a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs; in the heavily populated central Kashmir valley, the population was overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, however, there was also a small but influential Hindu minority, the Kashmiri brahmins or pandits; to the northeast, sparsely populated Baltistan had a population ethnically related to Ladakh, but which practiced Shi'a Islam; to the north, also sparsely populated, Gilgit Agency, was an area of diverse, mostly Shi'a groups; and, to the west, Punch was Muslim, but of different ethnicity than the Kashmir valley After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, in which Kashmir sided with the British, and the subsequent assumption of direct rule by Great Britain, the princely state of Kashmir came under the paramountcy of the British Crown.

Ranbir Singh's grandson Hari Singh, who had ascended the throne of Kashmir in 1925, was the reigning monarch in 1947 at the conclusion of British rule of the subcontinent and the subsequent partition of the British Indian Empire into the newly independent Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. As parties to the partition process, both countries had agreed that the rulers of princely states would be given the right to opt for either Pakistan or India or-in special cases-to remain independent. In 1947, Kashmir's population "was 77 per cent Muslim and it shared a boundary with Pakistan. Hence, it was anticipated that the Maharaja would accede to Pakistan, when the British paramountcy ended on 14-15 August. When he hesitated to do this, Pakistan launched a guerilla onslaught meant to frighten its ruler into submission. Instead the Maharaja appealed to Mountbatten for assistance, and the Governor-General agreed on the condition that the rulers accede to India." Once the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession, which included a clause added by Mountbatten asking that the wishes of the Kashmiri people be taken into account, "Indian soldiers entered Kashmir and drove the Pakistani-sponsored irregulars from all but a small section of the state. The United Nations was then invited to mediate the quarrel. The UN mission insisted that the opinion of Kashmir's must be ascertained, while India insisted that no referendum could occur until all of the state had been cleared of irregulars."

In the last days of 1948, a ceasefire was agreed under UN auspices; however, since the plebiscite demanded by the UN was never conducted, relations between India and Pakistan soured and eventually led to two more wars over Kashmir in 1965 and 1999. India has control of about half the area of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir; Pakistan controls a third of the region, the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. "Although there was a clear Muslim majority in Kashmir before the 1947 partition and its economic, cultural, and geographic contiguity with the Muslim-majority area of the Punjab (in Pakistan) could be convincingly demonstrated, the political developments during and after the partition resulted in a division of the region. Pakistan was left with territory that, although basically Muslim in character, was thinly populated, relatively inaccessible, and economically underdeveloped. The largest Muslim group, situated in the Vale of Kashmir and estimated to number more than half the population of the entire region, lay in Indian-administered territory, with its former outlets via the Jhelum valley route blocked."

The UN Security Council on 20 January 1948 passed Resolution 39, establishing a special commission to investigate the conflict. Subsequent to the commission's recommendation, the Security Council ordered in its Resolution 47, passed on 21 April 1948, that the invading Pakistani army retreat from Jammu & Kashmir and that the accession of Kashmir to either India or Pakistan be determined in accordance with a plebiscite to be supervised by the UN. In a string of subsequent resolutions, the Security Council took notice of the continuing failure to hold the plebiscite.

The Government of India holds that the Maharaja signed a document of accession to India October 26, 1947. Pakistan has disputed whether the Maharaja actually signed the accession treaty before Indian troops entered Kashmir. Furthermore, Pakistan claims the Indian government has never produced an original copy of this accession treaty and thus its validity and legality is disputed. However, India has produced the instrument of accession with an original copy image on its website. Alan Campbell-Johnson, the press attaché to the Viceroy of India states that "The legality of the accession is beyond doubt."

The eastern region of the erstwhile princely state of Kashmir has also been beset with a boundary dispute. In the late 19th- and early 20th centuries, although some boundary agreements were signed between Great Britain, Afghanistan and Russia over the northern borders of Kashmir, China never accepted these agreements, and the official Chinese position did not change with the communist takeover in 1949. By the mid-1950s the Chinese army had entered the north-east portion of Ladakh. "By 1956-57 they had completed a military road through the Aksai Chin area to provide better communication between Xinjiang and western Tibet. India's belated discovery of this road led to border clashes between the two countries that culminated in the Sino-Indian war of October 1962. China has occupied Aksai Chin since 1962 and, in addition, an adjoining region, the Trans-Karakoram Tract was ceded by Pakistan to China in 1965.

Meanwhile, elections were held in Indian Jammu & Kashmir, which brought up the popular Muslim leader Sheikh Abdullah, who with his party National Conference, by and large supported India. The elected Constituent Assembly met for the first time in Srinagar on October 31, 1951. Then the State Constituent Assembly ratified the accession of the State to the Union of India on February 6, 1954 and the President of India subsequently issued the Constitution (Application to J&K) Order under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution extending the Union Constitution to the State with some exceptions and modifications. The State's own Constitution came into force on January 26, 1957 under which the elections to the State Legislative Assembly were held for the first time on the basis of adult franchise the same year. This Constitution ratified the State's accession to Union of India. However, these tidings were not recognized by Pakistan, which has continued to press for a plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the people. Pakistan set up its own Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir (sic) in a tiny Western chunk that it had occupied. The much larger chunk of Pakistani Kashmir in the North-West, which was a province named Northern Areas in the erstwhile state, by and large bore no mention in Pakistani laws and Constitution as being of any status, till in 1982 the Pakistani President General Zia ul Haq proclaimed that the people of the Northern Areas were Pakistanis (sic) and had nothing to do with the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Current status and political divisions

Shown in green are the regions Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir, under Pakistani administration. The buff-coloured region is Jammu and Kashmir (including Ladakh) under Indian administration, while the beige-and-khaki striped region is Aksai Chin, under Chinese administration.

A political map of Kashmir showing the different districts.

The region is divided among three countries in a territorial dispute: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir) and Ladakh, and China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract). India controls the majority of the Siachen Glacier (higher peaks), whereas Pakistan controls the lower peaks. India controls 101,387 km2 of the disputed territory, Pakistan 85,846 km2 and China, the remaining 37,555 km2.

Though these regions are in practice administered by their respective claimants, India has never formally recognized the accession of the areas claimed by Pakistan and China. India claims those areas, including the area "ceded" to China by Pakistan in the Trans-Karakoram Tract in 1963, are a part of its territory, while Pakistan claims the region, excluding Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract.

Pakistan argues that Kashmir is culturally and religiously aligned with Pakistan (Kashmir is a Muslim region), while India bases its claim to Kashmir off Maharaja Hari Singh's decision to give Kashmir to India during the India-Pakistan split. Kashmir is considered one of the world's most dangerous territorial disputes due to the nuclear capabilities of India and Pakistan.

Fights for Heaven

The two countries INDIA & PAKISTAN have fought several declared wars over the territory. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 established the rough boundaries of today, with Pakistan holding roughly one-third of Kashmir, and India two-thirds. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 began with a Pakistani attempt to seize the rest of Kashmir, erroneously banking on support from then-ally the United States. Both resulted in stalemates and UN-negotiated ceasefires.

More recent conflicts have resulted in success for India; it gained control of the Siachen glacier after a low-intensity conflict that began in 1984, and Indian forces repulsed a Pakistani/Kashmir guerrilla attempt to seize positions during the Kargil War of 1999. This led to the coup d’état of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.

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Comments

Chandra Bhushan on 2009-03-03 22:05:18 wrote,

A masterpiece..... gud keep it up .